Monday, the Senate Public Health Committee held a hearing to investigate the status of distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the state’s nursing homes.
Alice Mitchell at the Independent Nursing Home Association said that majority of those facilities will have their first round by Friday, with three others due by the end of the month.
The two largest pharmacy chains nationwide, CVS and Walgreens, have been tasked with distributing the Pfizer vaccine to managed care facilities. The state received an initial 25,000 doses, with front-line emergency staff in hospitals and residents and staff of managed care facilities receiving priority for the initial doses.
There have been 62,744 doses administered statewide and 249,100 does distributed for use. Fifty four percent of those doses have gone to those ages 50 or older (34,165 residents).
Dr. Thomas Dobbs is the state’s health officer. He said during the hearing that the vaccination rate is a concern for him.
“We were a little disappointed to see that other states around us like Louisiana and Alabama are getting vaccinated about five times the rate or four times the rate of our Mississippi folks,” Dobbs said. “And I'm just not sure why that is. It's also reflecting poorly on our state.”
Roy Armstrong is the regional health director for Walgreens whose area of responsibility includes Mississippi. He said that the company has had “staffing challenges” in Mississippi and that in other states like Texas without those challenges, distribution of the vaccine has been a lot quicker.
Armstrong said Walgreens is in the process of hiring nurses and pharmacists from out of state to help provide the immunizations.
There are two COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use, the Pfizer one and the Moderna vaccine. The Pfizer one requires two shots, 21 days apart and is approved for ages 16 and older.
The Moderna vaccine is for those ages 18 and older and requires two shots 28 days apart.
Both require cold storage, with the Moderna able to be shipped at minus 4 degrees (the temperature of a regular refrigerator freezer) and the Pfizer requiring minus 94 degree temperature freezers unavailable at doctors’ officers and neighborhood pharmacies.
Three other vaccines are in clinical trials, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to data released from the CDC, Mississippi has the fourth lowest vaccination numbers per 100,000 population, ahead of only Ohio, Idaho and South Carolina.
There have been 4.2 million doses distributed for use in long-term care facilities and more than 937,000 have received their first dose of the two vaccines nationwide.